Trials humble vet Pierce, rookie Jett One hits hurdle, drops out

other last in women's 200

June 24, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Jack Pierce and Kisha Jett came to this year's U.S. Olympic track and field trials with different objectives and widely different perspectives.

Nearing the end of his career at the age of 33 and coming off December back surgery, Pierce knew this probably was his last chance to make the Olympic team. Competing in her first trials at age 19, Jett merely wanted to see whether she could race with some of the best sprinters in the world.

It turned out to be a disappointing day for both.

One day after setting a personal best of 12.94 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles, the fourth-best time ever run in the event and the fastest ever in the United States, the former Morgan State walk-on-turned-All-American crashed into the first hurdle and didn't even make it to the second. Larry Harrington also crashed into the first hurdle and fell to the ground.

One day after being the only collegiate runner to make it to the final of the women's 200, the former Hammond High School star ran 23.09 and finished last for only the second time in her career.

"I came out of the blocks really fast; it's one of the hazards of this event," said Pierce, whose lead leg got caught underneath the first hurdle. "Yesterday was one of my best days ever. But today I didn't do my job getting my leg up. The rest was history."

Said Jett, whose previous personal best of 22.84 would still have placed her last, "It was embarrassing, but I wouldn't trade the experience I had here for anything."

It was the second time Pierce had crashed into a hurdle in the Olympic trials. He did it in 1988 in Indianapolis, but that time it was the last hurdle. It was also the second time Jett had finished last in a race, but the other time was during a Southeastern Conference indoor meet as a freshman at Florida.

"It wasn't in front of everybody," Jett said.

What happened to Pierce yesterday seemed far removed from Saturday, when he ran the first sub-13-second time of his career and celebrated the moment with his longtime friend and rival Roger Kingdom, who jumped over a waist-high fence and hugged Pierce.

"The first thing I told him was that now I can finally get my license plate that says 'Sub-13,' " said Pierce.

Neither Pierce nor Kingdom celebrated yesterday. Pierce, who won the bronze medal in the 1992 Olympics, said it was likely going to be his last chance. The same was true for Kingdom. The two-time Olympic champion finished fifth in a 110 hurdles event won by reigning world champion Allen Johnson of Burke, Va., who equaled Kingdom's American record of 12.92 seconds.

Jett showed here that she probably has the Olympics in her future. But she also showed that she has a way to go to compete with Carlette Guidry, who won in 22.14 seconds. Or even 1992 Olympic champion Gwen Torrence, who finished fourth while hampered by a pulled thigh muscle.

"They're so much better and so much more developed," Jett said. "That's the way I want to be one day."

Jett looked at her experience here -- she also made the 100 meter semifinal -- as a chance to learn. Not only on the track, but off it as well.

"The other women couldn't have been nicer to me," she said. "They took me under their wing. I kind of expected it to be different; you hear the stereotype about the world-class athlete. When I'm in their position, I'll do the same."

Torrence fourth in 200

Torrence's hopes of winning gold medals at both 100 and 200 meters this summer at the Atlanta Games ended when she finished fourth in the 200 in a photo finish.

"I gave it all I had," Torrence said. "It just wasn't enough today. I'm disappointed, I'm not hurt. . . . I just ran fourth. I can't moan about it, I can't gripe about it."

Torrence, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist in the 200 and a five-time national champion at that distance, already had qualified in the 100 by winning that event last Saturday at the trials.

"It would have been tough to take if I hadn't won the 100," she said. "I think I would have wanted to crawl up and die."


Two other athletes with local ties also failed to qualify. In a race won by Paul McMullen, former Wilde Lake and James Madison University star Matt Holthaus finished 12th among 14 runners in the 1,500 meters in a time of 3: 46.98, while former Milford Mill and George Mason University star Tony Barton was eliminated in the high jump when he missed at the opening height of 7-2 1/2 .

Pub Date: 6/24/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.